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Argon SA1 Amplifier Review

Rate this amplifier:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 28 11.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 156 62.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 62 25.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 2 0.8%

  • Total voters
    248

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Argon SA1 integrated amplifier with phono input and Bluetooth. It is on kind from a European member and costs €369.
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Review DAC Phono Input Bluetooth.jpg

I have a soft spot for white audio electronics and the SA1 goes right after that! Quite elegant. What I didn't like is the lack of indication on the file LEDs which indicate inputs. The volume control is digital (also controlled via an included remote). Pushing it selects the input. The LEDs also blink for other reasons I did not try to figure out. Here is the back panel:
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Review DAC back panel  Phono Input Bluetooth.jpg

It was odd to see just a type A USB that is indicated as USB power. There should be proper USB input in this day and age. There is pre-out but in my testing, I found that the volume control did not adjust it when using digital input but did with phono. Maybe this was operator error, I don't know as only a single half-sheet of instructions is provided with the unit.

The unit as shipped is for 50 Hz/250 volt so I used my lab AC generator to power it. Specifications say "40 watts" of power so thought my 300 VA lab supply is enough. As it turns out, it was not. See the measurement section.

FYI, there is a very clos cousin of this unit from NAD in the form of AMP1. I could not find either for sale in US. The AMP1 lacks Bluetooth I believe but has Chromecast built in (?). It is not clear who built this unit. Likely it is an OEM for both.

Argon SA1 DAC Measurements
I fed the unit Toslink and measured from the pre-out. The output was severely clipped. So I brought the input level down -12 dB to our nominal 2 volts and no clipping:

Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Measurements DAC Phono Input Bluetooth.png


This lands the unit in the middle of our "fair" category:
best integrated amplifier stereo review.png


I like to see a SINAD of over 100 dB for this class product and we are good few dBs short here. Here is the response sweep of digital input levels:
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier THD vs level Measurements DAC Phono Input Bluetooth.png


Our dynamic range is just "OK:"
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier DNR Measurements DAC Phono Input Bluetooth.png


At this point, the picture of the DAC performance is clear so I thought I cut to the chase and measure the amplifier.

Argon SA1 Amplifier Measurements
With amplifiers that have both analog input and digital, I start by testing both to see which is more transparent and run with that. Here is analog input:

Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Analog In Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


This is not a happy picture with rising low frequency noise and distortion that is just below -80 dB. Let's try Toslink input:

Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


Ah, that is much better. The combination of noise and distortion is well above average now:
best integrated amplifier stereo review digital input.png

So let's continue with Toslink input starting with our SNR:
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Toslink SNR Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


We are a few dBs short of my 96 dB requirement for 5 watts but 88 dB is not so bad. I expected crosstalk to be better given the digital input:

Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Toslink Crosstalk Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


Frequency response shows some load dependency in this Class D amplifier but better than many with this problem:

Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Toslink Frequency Response Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


Let's see how much power we have starting with 4 ohm load:
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Toslink Power 4 ohm Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


Multitone performance is good:
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Toslink Multitone Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


I could not get to clipping range as my AC lab supply would shut down. So likely there is more power to be had as you can see in this dynamic test:

Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Toslink Peak Power 4 ohm Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


I did have enough juice to run the 8 ohm test:
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Toslink Power 8 ohm Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


In both cases the SA1 beats the ARCAM AVR10 in noise which is good.

Argon SA1 Phono Measurements
There was tremendous amount of mains interference in the phono stage dashboard. I am not going to show that as it may be due to use of my lab supply. But here is the all important RIAA equalization:
Argon Audio SA1 Amplifier Phono RIAA Frequency Response Measurements Phono Input Bluetooth.png


It seems to be a little heavy handed in upper bass with a rumble filter built-in. Not bad but not perfect either.

Conclusions
I really like the way the SA1 looks. But looks can't get me over "checklist" DAC performance of around 16 bits. The analog input on the amp doesn't perform well but digital does. Overall I have mixed feelings on the unit so not going to pass judgement one way or the other. I let you all do that by answering the poll.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

SEKLEM

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I like the style of this as well. Nice features for the price with a known brand. It's far from "broken".

OH, clever bastards! I thought this was an Aragon. Shame on them for gas lighting me with "Argon". MAD!!!
 

DonR

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Nice looking and seems to provide enough performance for the price/features. If you need digital and phono inputs it seems decent for the price.
 

Haruko

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measurements aside this thing is a beauty, if only it were a bit less rounded
 

respice finem

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My first thought was "a nicely designed music therapy device" :) (because of the colour).
The missing labels next to the input LEDs are a case of "the doctor must know which is which" :cool:
Fine I guess.
 
Last edited:

PeteL

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FYI, there is a very clos cousin of this unit from NAD in the form of AMP1. I could not find either for sale in US.
1659383143729.png
 

juliangst

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Argon Audio is well known here in Germany. The amp looks great for people who just want a small device for bookshelf speakers and care for aesthetics
 

G|force

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..I thought this was an Aragon. Shame on them for gas lighting me..
Me too, had to look twice. All of the gasses have been panned hard. :)
 

RandomEar

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Had the SA1 for testing last year. My copy had pronounced speaker pop. Tweeter hiss was present and easily audible at 1 m with my speakers (sens. 87 dB). Casing felt cheap. Definitely no recommendation from my side.
 

Tobei

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Hi,

thank you Amir for the review and the kind contact during test preparation!

The LEDs also blink for other reasons I did not try to figure out.
This is usually the case when the amplifier is in Bluetooth connection mode.

It was odd to see just a type A USB that is indicated as USB power. There should be proper USB input in this day and age. There is pre-out but in my testing, I found that the volume control did not adjust it when using digital input but did with phono. Maybe this was operator error, I don't know as only a single half-sheet of instructions is provided with the unit.
Originally, the device once had an Ethernet interface and a built-in Chromecast streaming function. However, Google did not like that very much. Therefore, there is now the USB socket for powering an external Chromecast streaming stick.

In my case, the volume control worked without problems regardless of the input.

I have a soft spot for white audio electronics and the SA1 goes right after that! Quite elegant. What I didn't like is the lack of indication on the file LEDs which indicate inputs.
Applies to me as well. However, the curiosity to see how good the device really is was too great to just use it. Attached is a picture of the original setup. The subwoofer was and is operated with a Hypex FA251 module.

chorus_family.jpg chorus_sub_11.jpg

For interested readers, here are a few pictures of the amp's inner workings.

IMG_0320.jpg IMG_0321.jpg IMG_0322.jpg

Currently I am running my speakers with two Hypex FA122 modules. Not much difference, a bit softer in the treble, and more powerful in the bass.

hypex_fa122_1.jpg hypex_fa122_2.jpg


Best Regards
Tobias
 

PeteL

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Ah, I didn't look close enough. :) I guess they think us Americans are too picky to accepted it! :D
There may be something sketchy with their power supply that don't like 110V 60 Hz, but hard to tell.
 

Katji

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:) All looks very nice. ...Overall effect = :)
 
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